PLANKED

Planked Seafood

shrimp_plank_cooked.jpg

I’ve fried, broiled, and grilled,
I’ve poached, baked, and braised,
But I’ve never planked.
Sounds kinda risqué,
like something that might be
mentioned in a folk song.*

I heard the term “planked” about a year ago. Maybe on Food TV, or the Saturday Morning PBS cooking shows. Planked Salmon. Put your Salmon fillet on a cedar plank and put the plank on a gas grill. Cover and cook.

Not long after that I got a gas grill, not for that reason.

Cedar planks appeared on or near the fish counter at Whole Food. They seemed to be about 15 inches long, half that wide and maybe 3/4-inch thick, topped by full color glossy paper with a picture of a gorgeous salmon fillet, promising cooking instructions on the back; all shrink wrapped in plastic. Hmmmm, planking is going mainstream. I was curious, but not compelled to buy a plank.

This led to two recent events in rapid succession:
1. Alton Brown cooked trout on a plank on his Good Eats show. “We haven’t had trout in ages,” Carol said. My fishmonger at the Farmers Market almost always has whole boned trout, so I got a pair and poached them.

2. On Valentine’s Day, Carol got me a plank, shrink wrapped, etc. How romantic is that? This was slightly smaller than planks I had seen, and when I unwrapped it, it turned out to be two, thin planks.

The weather was good enough to grill under the lights (until Daylight Saving’s Time), but we had neither trout nor salmon. We did have shrimp. Emeril did a recipe for Shrimp cooked on a plank and it’s stupid simple. Toss shrimp, sliced red onion and tomatoes, with olive oil. Put all that on a soaked plank and grill it.

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Good stuff. The shrimp were nice and moist and cooked just right and the onions and tomatoes were the same. I expected a hint of cedar plank taste, but there was none. OK they were cooked with shells on and shrimp has its own pronounced flavor, so maybe the plank was just outflavored.

shrimp_plank_cooked.jpg

Then I planked trout. The trout was trimmed of its fins, head and tail, then stood up on it’s flared belly like an upside-down Y. That should just collect the plank taste and gather it in, if there is a plank taste. Trout is a mild fish, but neither Carol nor I could discern a cedar taste, but it was wonderfully moist and perfectly cooked.

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planked trout, grilled potatoes, salad of bitter greens

I will plank again. Planking has the advantage of indirect cooking in a hot, moist environment. And there is no clean-up, no grill to scrape, just rinse off the plank. It feels good, working with a fine cedar plank and fresh fish, feels natural. And when you bring your plank in with the steaming fish and vegetables on the reddish plank, well, it looks mouthwateringly swell.

Rustic Cedar Shrimp
Adapted from a Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
Yield: 2 Servings

Cooked 2.08 — real good. Red onion, sliced and cherry tomatoes. The plank was thin, maybe a quarter-inch thick and it bowed up in the middle. I didn’t notice any “plank” taste.

* 1 untreated cedar plank
* Olive oil for coating, plus 2 tablespoons
* 1 pound shrimp in shell
* Essence, see note
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 2 Italian tomatoes, quartered

Soak the plank for three hours.
Preheat grill. Oil the cedar plank on one side. Toss the tomatoes and onions with 1 tablespoon of the oil and Essence. Lay out the tomatoes and onions on the cedar plank, making sure not to get too close to the edge.

In the same bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining oil, and season with creole spice. Lay out the shrimp on top of the tomatoes and onions. Place in the center of the grill. Cover and cook indirect for 10 minutes. (If you have a grill like mine, turn off the center flame. If you’re using a charcoal grill, grill indirect.)

Note: You can get Emeril’s Essence recipe from his web site, or buy it at the supermarket, or just use salt and pepper.

Plank Grilled Whole Trout
Adapted from a Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007
Serves 2

2 boneless trout with heads, tails and fins removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: 2 untreated cedar or alder planks, 3/4-inch thick and 12 to 15 inches long [my fish were small, I used one 12 x 7 x 3/8-inch plank]

Place the planks into cool water and allow to soak for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the grill to 375 to 400 degrees F.

Brush the trout, inside and out with olive oil. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the trout onto the planks belly down and open. Place the planks over indirect heat* and grill until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

* Apologies to Paul Simon and A SIMPLE DESULTORY PHILIPPIC

I been Norman Mailered, Maxwell Taylored.
I been John O’Hara’d, McNamara’d.
I been Rolling Stoned and Beatled till I’m blind.
I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded
Communist, ’cause I’m left-handed.
That’s the hand I use, well, never mind!

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